Written by: Katie Hargitt, Ball State University
Anyone involved in motor sports will tell you it is more than a hobby, it is a lifestyle. That has held true for me since the first time I climbed in a car at age nine. Now, at 20-years-old, my dreams of being a professional racecar driver have developed into becoming a NASCAR pit reporter. When NASCAR came to Indianapolis this summer, my persistence, dedication, and hard work helped my dreams come closer to reality.
After announcing select races for the United States Auto Club all summer, I worked up the courage to ask fellow announcer Pat Sullivan if I could shadow him at Lucas Oil Raceway for the Kroger Speedfest. As someone who has never been shy in asking for opportunities to help chase my aspirations, I knew an opportunity to network at a NASCAR race could be a big break for my future.
I arrived at the track not expecting anything more than making potential contacts, so with brand new business cards in hand I marched into the press box just waiting to meet anyone and everyone. When I walked in the press box, I looked around and saw many NASCAR reporters I follow on Twitter.
I could actually see the people I wanted to be!
It was all I could do not to march up to them, introduce myself, and strike up a conversation about their careers. But timing is everything, and they were busy at the moment with a national broadcast, so I stayed put.
Pre-race ceremonies were being held on the front straightaway, and I was excited to be in the thick of the action. As the National Anthem was being sung I looked around me, saw the packed stands, drivers, cars and crews and goose bumps came over my entire body as I thought, “This is it. The beginning of your career.”
Engines fired, crews took their positions, and Pat and I headed back to the booth to announce the race. As soon as the race began I was busy taking notes and observing. I take notes each race to help me develop my own style. Notes consist of phrases I like or don’t like, general race comments, as well as driver and team information. Kimb Stewart also joined Pat and me in the booth and Pat mentioned he needed a break. He then looked at me, introduced me to the crowd, handed me the microphone and said, “Take it away, Katie.”
The goose bumps were back.
I immediately began my first NASCAR play-by-play, or should I say lap-by-lap, call. Kimb and I quickly achieved a flow that worked for us. After a while, I handed the microphone back to Pat, not wanting to over-step my boundaries. Kimb then immediately handed me her microphone. I was on cloud nine. Throughout the race we continued to cycle the microphones, each sharing and taking breaks.
The race was uneventful, except for the last five laps. Lack of cautions during the middle of the race made it challenging to follow track position of each car. But with the help of timing and scoring, we were prepared. When the checkered flag dropped, Brad Keselowski was the first to cross the start finish line. Once again, I had a front row seat to the action. (Of course, I took a video on my phone and turned it into a twit-vid like any racing addict!) Kimb and I rushed onto the track, armed with a microphone and ready to grab our first interview subject.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take part in the victory circle interviews. Not that I expected to, but just being able to be in the heart of it was thrilling enough for me. I made sure Kimb was prepared with the microphone and paperwork when she needed it. Keeping up with her in a crowd of photographers, fans, families and crews wasn’t easy. It was comparable to fans rushing the field after their favorite football team beats their rivals.
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After the interviews and victory pictures, we headed back to the press box. All I could do was hope I would get the opportunity to meet someone from SPEED or ESPN Motor sports. The night before I met a SPEED producer and definitely didn’t let him leave without my contact information. I didn’t meet anyone else affiliated with SPEED or ESPN that night, but I learned so many valuable lessons.
Experience in your field is unmatched. So at 20-years-old, I’m doing everything I can to get an edge on my competition. I freely introduce myself to anyone that will listen, make sure I have my elevator speech prepared and always leave them with a business card and take one of their cards. Almost as important as meeting someone is the follow up e-mail I send to thank them for their time and remind them who I am.
This is my way of continuously knocking on their door saying, “Hey, remember me?” Then the rest is left up to hoping they remember me, and one day a memory can lead to more opportunities.
Katie Hargitt is a junior at Ball State University majoring in telecommunications. She began racing at the age of nine, but has now turned her goals toward broadcasting racing. During the summer of 2011 she was a pit reporter for the United States Auto Club and an intern in the sports department at Fox 59 in Indianapolis.
During her time at Ball State she has been involved in NewsLink, Cardinal Sports Live, Connections Live, and WCRD. You can follow her on Twitter @katiehargitt.